The largest bond initiative in Arlington history will be put before voters in a referendum Tuesday when they will be asked to approve funds for the construction of both a new Washington-Lee High School and the county's most expensive recreational project to date.
The $208 million proposal will be presented to voters in the form of four ballot questions that would, if approved, authorize the county to issue general obligation bonds: $78.1 million for schools, $75.3 million for parks and recreation, $35.9 million for transportation and infrastructure, and an $18.5 million contribution to Metro's capital improvement program.
The last time Arlington voters defeated a bond proposal was 1979, when they rejected funding for local and regional parks totaling $5 million. Since then, voters have passed 12 bond initiatives, officials said.
"The Arlington voters realize that a community that doesn't have a capital improvements program is in dire straits," said Barbara A. Favola (D), chairman of the County Board. "A community that realizes they have to make long-term investments on a regular schedule is showing sound fiscal management." Arlington voters, she said, "have been very generous."
The school bond includes five projects, the largest of which is $72.7 million for construction of a 350,000-square-foot facility to replace Washington-Lee. The new school will accommodate 1,600 students and include a 10-lane community swimming pool.
The aging Washington-Lee was built over several eras. Today, only the sections from the 1950s, '60s and '70s remain. Officials say the facility is not energy efficient and is in poor condition overall. The new building is designed to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification for being environmentally sound and energy efficient.
Other school bond projects include $1.37 million to demolish the existing Kenmore Middle School once the school's new 200,000-square-foot building is completed; $2.2 million to fund the design for reconstruction of Yorktown High School; $935,900 to design the reconstruction of 33,000 square feet of space to house the High School Continuation Program at Arlington Mill; and $860,000 to design the renovation and expansion of a portion of the Reed building on North McKinley Road to accommodate early childhood programs.
Voters will also be asked to approve $50 million for the North Tract park and swim complex, the most expensive recreation project in county history. The park would sit on 28 acres of industrial land just south of the 14th Street bridge. Plans call for the construction of a 173,000-square-foot aquatic and exercise center with four swimming pools, basketball courts and a fitness center, at least four soccer fields, and a bike path.
County planners say the complex will be built in three phases beginning in 2006. Members of the county's Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission have said final costs for the project could top $100 million.
The $35.9 million bond for transportation and community infrastructure comprises $13 million for community conservation, including street improvements, residential traffic management, park enhancements, lighting and landscaping; $9.7 million to continue with design, renovation or replacement of the county's 10 fire stations and work on the expansion of the fire training academy; $10.1 million for transportation and pedestrian initiatives, including new trails and roadways; and $2.95 million for storm drainage upgrades.